Freud Is Alive and Well

Our Director of Studies in Psychodynamic Studies and Psychology, Dr Alistair Ross, reflects on the founder of psychoanalysis.

'As long as people dream there will be a fascination with the person and the ideas of Sigmund Freud. He believed the interpretation of dreams were the royal road to the knowledge of unconscious aspects of the psyche. He explained why we end up doing things that seem so alien to us. He observed how slips of the tongue (or keyboard in our current context) reveal deep-rooted wishes. He explained how we defend ourselves from reality and pain. He confronted the hypocrisy of his day by talking openly about sex and sexuality. He promoted women as analysts at a time when so many professions were closed to them.

'Yet many people still only know the most basic details. So there is still so much that can be said about Sigmund Freud.

'My first book on Freud was a short biography spelling out the bare-bones of his life in a text that was readable and affordable.  I was delighted that Ruby Wax endorsed it saying, “This is a very, very smart book. It makes Freud accessible, interesting and relevant.” At a dinner for new students last year at Kellogg College I met a young Canadian medic who it transpired had been taught Freud badly in her training. She was fascinated when I explained a little and went on to read my book. On returning this term, she came with pages of questions wanting to know more. Her questions were deep and searching and we spent an afternoon in the sun learning together.

'I was then approached by an American publisher, who had read my short biography, to do a serious volume on Freud. This was part of their series of reference guides to the life and works of important people. I loved the challenge and what has been published was only half of what was eventually written and is still waiting to find a place. It offers an overview of Freud’s life, a detailed life-line, then an A-Z of key figures, places, people, ideas, movements, Freud’s family, and so the list goes on. In the course of my research I discovered so many fascinating things, such as the prescription for Freud’s glasses. When I showed these measurements to an optician to help interpret what they meant. He wrote saying this was a complex prescription and unfortunately in this case he would not be able to offer any laser surgery.

'One guiding idea throughout my life and work on Freud is to give recognition to the whole range of people who supported him, believed in him, and together made one man’s ideas into what became known as psychoanalysis. If Freud is the conductor, there are so many others that form the orchestra.'

– Alistair Ross

Learn more:

Alistair Ross's academic profile

Alistair Ross Sigmund Freud (Stroud: History Press, 2016) £6.99

Alistair Ross Sigmund Freud: A Reference Guide to his Life and Works (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2022) £96. If you'd like to purchase a copy please e-mail and receive a 30% discount voucher (for a limited time).

Published 27 May 2022